SPENCER, Edward (1595-1656), of Althorp, Northants.; Boston Manor, Mdx. and Lincoln's Inn, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



18 May 1648

Family and Education

bap. 2 Mar. 1595,2 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Sir Robert Spencer† (d.1627) 1st Bar. Spencer of Wormleighton, and Margaret, da. and coh. of Sir Francis Willoughby of Wollaton, Notts.; bro. of Richard* and William*.3 educ. Corpus, Oxf. 1609, BA 1612; L. Inn 1613, called 1618; travelled abroad (Spanish Neths.) 1617.4 m. 19 Sept. 1625, Mary (d.1658), da. of John Goldsmith of Wilby, Suff., wid. of Sir William Reade of Osterley, Mdx., s.p.5 kntd. 27 Dec. 1625.6 d. 11 Feb. 1656.7

Offices Held

Assoc. Bencher, L. Inn 1617.8

Commr. survey, L. Inn Fields 1618,9 j.p. Mdx. 1626-at least 1639;10 commr. Forced Loan, 1626-7;11 oyer and terminer, the Verge 1629-34, Mdx. 1634-8, London and Mdx. 1641,12 repair of St. Paul’s cathedral, 1635,13 sewers, Colney 1638-9,14 subsidy, Mdx. 1642,15 array, 1642.16


The youngest of four sons of the wealthy Northamptonshire Spencer family of Althorp, this Member received the same fulsome education as his brothers at Oxford, the inns of court, and in Europe. He seems to have derived a comfortable income from looking after the family’s legal and business affairs; his father paid him a modest annuity, as well as bequeathing him £2,000 in his will.17 Even before his marriage Spencer was able to lend £500 to Lincoln’s Inn, where he had lodgings.18 He was returned for Brackley at the general election of 1620, as a result of his family’s connections with the borough’s patron, the 1st earl of Bridgwater, (John Egerton†).19 Both of his surviving brothers, Sir William and Richard, also entered the Commons in this Parliament, leading to occasional confusion between the two younger Spencers in the records. In his maiden speech on 16 Mar. 1621 Spencer argued that it was ‘no loss of privilege’ for Members to be required to give evidence under oath concerning the patents of (Sir) Giles Mompesson*.20 Proceedings against such monopolies dominated the first sitting, and on 2 May both Spencer and his brother Sir William supported the motion of William Mallory* that Sir Edward Villiers* should be excluded from the Commons for his involvement in the gold and silver thread patent.21 On 14 May Spencer introduced a bill to require a royal licence to be enrolled in Chancery for all gifts and pensions from foreigners.22 At the second reading on 25 May he pointed out the dangers of such perquisites:

Gifts blind the eyes of the wise, or at the least tie their hands and tongues that they cannot be [as] free as otherwise ... The king’s ministers should so carry themselves as to expect their reward at home, and not to leave their English hearts behind them.23

This advice was seconded by Sir Edward Coke, and Spencer was thereupon appointed to the bill committee.24 On 31 May he was appointed with his brother Richard to examine evidence against John Lambe, chancellor of Peterorough diocese, who had been accused of various abuses by the borough of Northampton.25 In the second sitting Spencer was named to the committee to inquire into the failure to exact the full penalties for recusancy (29 Nov. 1621), and opposed as premature the request of Sir Henry Spiller*, the Exchequer official responsible for collecting recusancy fines, for copies of the charges against him.26 At the sub-committee on religion later the same day, Spencer pointed out that the law requiring Englishmen to take the Oath of Allegiance before they went abroad was being ignored.27 The following day, together with Sir Robert Phelips* and John Finch II*, he examined a witness against Spiller, one Farrington, who was also involved in the conspiracy of Lepton and Goldsmith against Sir Edward Coke.28 On learning of the imprisonment of Sir Edwin Sandys* on 1 Dec. either Spencer or his brother Richard (who later married Sandys’s daughter) declared that ‘our privileges are broken, which are and ought to be dearer to us than our lives’.29 The assurance of (Sir) George Calvert* that Sandys’s offence had not occurred in Parliament gave him no satisfaction, and he continued by asking ‘whether we be not as free to speak in Westminster Hall as here?, whether we are Parliament in the forenoon and not in the afternoon?’ If the answers to these question was in the negative, ‘then farewell privileges, and farewell England’.30

Spencer was re-elected for Brackley in 1624, and was again accompanied to Westminster by his brothers. Ordered to attend the conference of 8 Apr. 1624 on the monopolies bill,31 on the following morning he criticized lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) for levying new impositions, which he declared were contrary to the law and ‘doth overthrow the very essence of a subject, and maketh them villeins or slaves’. Both his brother Richard in the Commons and his father in the Lords called for Middlesex to be impeached for taking private profit from impositions; Spencer himself also pointed out that ‘the new imposition on sugar is rented by the lord treasurer and it will not be difficult to prove that his lordship hath and receiveth most good by it’.32 He was named to the resulting select committee appointed to search for precedents for punishing those who mulcted the subject.33 After alleging on 12 Apr. that Middlesex had countermanded a royal order for the refusal of impositions on re-exports, he was among those ordered to draft the impeachment charges.34

At the report stage of the bill for repeal of statutes on 27 Apr., Spencer introduced a proviso concerning the export of undressed cloth, which gave rise to ‘much dispute’.35 He chaired the committee for the bill to naturalize Walter Balcanquall, one of the king’s chaplains, which he reported on 8 May;36 and it was probably he rather than his brother Richard who reported the revived bill against foreign bribes on 15 May, although neither had been named to the committee.37 Sitting for Brackley for the last time in the 1625 Parliament he was named only to the committees for privileges (21 June 1625) and for a bill to mitigate the sentence of excommunication (27 June); it was probably his brother rather than he who spoke in favour of voting two subsidies.38

In September 1625 Spencer married a wealthy widow, whose ‘fidelity and kindness’ were attested in the will of Sir Michael Stanhope*.39 He was knighted shortly afterwards, and took up residence on his new wife’s jointure estate in Middlesex, in which county he was soon appointed to the magistrates bench.40 His wealth and standing, even as a newcomer, were sufficient to allow him to be elected for the shire in 1626. His nine committees in this Parliament included those to draft a petition against recusants (20 Mar. 1626) and to investigate the victualling of Mansfeld’s expedition (22 March).41 He took the chair for the inquiry into the payment demanded by lord admiral Buckingham in respect of the Portuguese prizes taken at Ormuz, and reported to the House on 18 Apr. that it constituted ‘an undue exacting and extorting’.42 Although not sharing his brother Richard’s ardent admiration for the duke, Spencer called for moderation in the impeachment proceedings, for example suggesting on 4 May that witnesses against Buckingham should be required to swear the Oath of Allegiance.43 With his brothers he was among those ordered to draft a petition on augmenting the revenue (4 May), and to marshal the grievances for presentation to the king (25 May).44

Spencer does not seem to have stood for the third Caroline Parliament. He advanced money on mortgage to the earl of Castlehaven (Sir Mervyn Audley*), resulting in a petition to Parliament against Spencer in 1646, in which he was accused of defrauding another debtor of more than £600.45 Although named to the commission of array, he remained neutral in the Civil War. He was returned for Middlesex as a recruiter in 1648, but secluded at Pride’s Purge. He died on 11 Feb. 1656, and was buried in the family chapel at Brington.46 In his will, dated 4 July 1655, after providing for charitable bequests of £30 a year, he left a life interest in all his property to his wife, who erected a monument for him.47

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648.
  • 2. Northants. RO, 49P/26, Brington par. reg., unfol.
  • 3. M.E. Finch, Five Northants. Fams. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xix), 248.
  • 4. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; APC, 1616-17, p. 266.
  • 5. Add. 19132, f. 134.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 190.
  • 7. Bridges, Northants. ii. 476.
  • 8. LI Black Bks. ii. 198.
  • 9. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 83.
  • 10. C231/4, f. 200; SP16/405, f. 43.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 435; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 12. C181/4, ff. 5v, 172, 181/5, ff. 57v, 213, 214.
  • 13. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 61.
  • 14. C181/5, ff. 122, 136v.
  • 15. SR, v. 153.
  • 16. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 17. Finch, 58n, 174.
  • 18. LI Black Bk. ii. 245.
  • 19. HEHL, EL6413; APC, 1630-1, p. 196.
  • 20. CJ, i. 558a.
  • 21. Ibid. 603a; CD 1621, iv. 289; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 125.
  • 22. CJ, i. 621a.
  • 23. CD 1621, iii. 248, 302, iv. 369; Nicholas Procs. 1621, ii. 100.
  • 24. CJ, i. 626b.
  • 25. CD 1621, vii. 608.
  • 26. CJ, i. 652a; Nicholas, ii. 252.
  • 27. CD 1621, iii. 473.
  • 28. Ibid. ii. 477n.
  • 29. CD 1621, ii. 483-4.
  • 30. CD 1621, v. 411; vi. 218; Nicholas, ii. 259; CJ, i. 654b; Zaller, 158.
  • 31. CJ, i. 757b.
  • 32. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 129.
  • 33. CJ, i. 760b.
  • 34. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 147; CJ, i. 764b.
  • 35. CJ, i. 691b.
  • 36. Ibid. 700b, 783b.
  • 37. Ibid. 789a.
  • 38. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 253, 276.
  • 39. PROB 11/139, f. 74.
  • 40. D. Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 45.
  • 41. Procs. 1626, ii. 321, 340.
  • 42. Ibid. iii. 18.
  • 43. Ibid. 161.
  • 44. Ibid. 156, 332.
  • 45. HMC 6th Rep. 114.
  • 46. Bridges, ii. 476.
  • 47. PROB 11/254, f. 198.